– Kara Bietz –
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published 21 September 2021
Football, friendship, romance? What’s not to love.
Julian Jackson and Elijah Vance. Once childhood best friends. Now…. Three years after Elijah and his family left town, he has returned. Julian isn’t sure what to think. Does Elijah know it was Julian who called the police and told them Elijah broke the Coach’s window and was going to steal the money? Is Elijah the same boy he remembers? And does he remember that moment before he left? Elijah knows Julian isn’t happy to see him again – he makes that pretty clear. But is there any chance of fixing what was once between them and becoming friends again or something more?
This book is so American and so Texan it’s not funny (though it is delightful). It’s a setting that just jumps from the pages and gives the perfect backdrop to this football-loving romance.
This book features a gay relationship but coming out, LGBT+ relationships, sexual identity, and acceptance are not themes of this book. Julian and Elijah are both out. They are both comfortable with their sexual identity. There is not one homophobic remark, not one comment about them being together, living together, playing together. Not one eyelid is battered. And by gosh that is nice. Because, while sadly it might not be the reality for LGBT+ teens, it is lovely to have a book that is just about the characters and their feelings and their romance and their love of football and not societal problems, same as any book that features a heterosexual relationship.
I thought there would be a bit more about the hurt and backstory between Julian and Elijah. While Julian is initially frosty to Elijah and they are both uncertain where they stand and the welcome to town isn’t exactly, you know, welcoming, there was little drama about the past. Far less drama than I expected, which was actually really nice. Instead, the book focuses more on football, romance, Julian’s leadership of the football team and his reluctance to participate the in the traditional pranks between the two rival football teams. In the process, we also learn more about Julian and Elijah’s fathers and how their relationships with their fathers and their fathers’ friendship impacts their decisions today.
An easy book to read and enjoy, Sidelined is a delightful romance.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Genre: Contemporary, Sport
Themes: Football, friendship, parents, family, grief, reputations, pranks, leadership, romance, high school.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, f*** (1), sh** (21), pi** (8), as***** (1), bit** (1). Vague sexual references.
Published: 21 September by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 304 pages.